There’s one thing I always forget to consider when venturing out to the country at the weekend in the car… Sunday drivers.
We all know them. The slower drivers who enjoy a leisurely trip in the car, not even getting close to the speed limit. The ones who are usually in no rush to get anywhere or sometimes, don’t even know where “there” actually is. We’ve all been stuck behind one and that’s exactly what happened when I headed out to Potarch Cafe & Restaurant out near Aboyne, the other weekend. Still, the slow meander was well worth it once we eventually reached our destination.
Located on the stunning Ballogie Estate, the eatery is a snug wee place to frequent for some delicious dishes. Having heard various people rave about its offering, my boyfriend and I decided it was about time we tried it.
Home to the world-renowned Dinnie Stones made famous by Scottish strongman Donald Dinnie, Potarch is one place I’m not overly familiar with. On arrival, I could see the cute hotel and eatery from the road, hidden by a row of large trees.
Inside, it was cosy and welcoming with numerous tables spread across the open space and a neuk with sofas and a modern wood-burning stove.
I was glad we had booked a table as the venue was fairly busy – and it had just turned 1pm when we got there.
We were seated at a cosy table for two and handed the menus. Ordering drinks, my boyfriend went on the hunt for the specials board, reporting back what delicious meals were on offer. The quiche of the day tickled my fancy, as did the soup, not to mention the other tasty wholesome meals that featured.
The soup of the day sounded too tempting to pass up, so my boyfriend ordered that while I salivated over the thought of the mushroom quiche.
Boiling hot on arrival, the steam dispersed off the vibrant red tomato and roast pepper soup. It was thick and deliciously sweet, obviously freshly-made as the seeds of the vegetables added to the texture of the dish.
The blitzed liquid was extremely filling and was partnered with a thick hunk of homemade bread, which crumbled away as my dining partner tore into it and dunked it in the soup. Spongy on the outside and a solid exterior crust, it was perfect for dipping.
My mushroom quiche was sublime. A large portion, I almost felt it could have stood alone as a small main. However, I definitely wasn’t complaining. Packed with juicy mushrooms, the soft quiche melted in my mouth and every forkful got better and better.
Served warm, the thick and gloopy balsamic dressing on the side went perfectly with it. I dragged my crisp crusts through, adding an acidic flavour into the mix.
The quiche was rather garlicky – which I enjoyed – however the flavour did overpower the other ingredients packed within the creamy pastry dish.
A salad with a vinaigrette dressing was also served on the side.
Polishing it off, I was nervous I had spoiled my main because of the size of it.
By this time, the eatery was beginning to fill up, so we’d arrived at a good time – despite the best efforts of our Sunday driver.
Our mains didn’t take too long to appear too, with our server offering my boyfriend additional condiments to enjoy with his burger. Mayonnaise, ketchup and vinegar all arrived on the table within seconds.
His burger looked tasty and I was eyeing up the large portion of fries too.
Biting into it, he discovered the bun had been lathered in English mustard on the bottom which he noted was rather overpowering. The beef patty itself was well constructed as it had been hand pressed, meaning it didn’t fall apart.
Topped with cheddar cheese, it had melted all over the top layer of the patty and all down the sides of it and the bun.
The bun was rather thin so struggled to hold all the contents including the gherkins, onion chutney, tomato and the patty in the one place. My boyfriend manoeuvred the wooden skewer stuck in it to hold everything in place as he worked his way around.
One of his favourites on a burger, the mini gherkins were nice and tart and added a lovely crunch to it.
The side salad was a pleasant addition featuring sweet lettuce and chopped cucumber and tomato, but the creamy coleslaw and chips were what he cared about more. Crispy and fluffy on the inside, the fries were cooked perfectly.
I decided to go off-piste and shy away from my usual fish and chips or a hearty pie and ordered the Ballogie Estate pork belly. The menu stated it was served with black haggis, roast potatoes, vegetable and gravy, but I received a slightly different version of it.
Four thick slices of pork belly were lined up on the plate and were smothered in the lip-smacking good gravy. The meat was well-cooked and was tender and soft.
The crackling on top was crisp and crunchy, with some bits being a little chewier than the others.
The gravy wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t too thin either which made it just right for the lighter pork meat. Instead of roast potatoes, I had a heap of chunky garlicky mashed potatoes – and one roasted tattie on the side for good measure.
Chopped parsley was sprinkled over it and the array of oven-roasted vegetables included red onion, carrot and parsnip, all of which were nice and soft.
Having overindulged with my quiche, I couldn’t finish the pork dish which was a shame. But I had no regrets as my starter was totally worth it.
We decided against dessert – obviously – and also figured it was a bad idea to take any homebakes home, as tempting and inviting as they looked.
Paying the bill and with the October showers holding off, we headed out to the front of the venue to see the Dinnie Stones. They were much larger than I’d imagined and I was reluctant to touch them, never mind actually try and lift them.
After reading a bit about them at the information stand, we went for a little wonder around the estate to walk off our lunch before being forced back to the car thanks to yet another rainshower.
There’s a range of homely comfort meals, as well as a variety of dishes which showcase the estate’s offering and its use of local produce.
Potarch Cafe and Restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere and makes guests feel at home almost instantly.
It’s an inviting space which seats between 30 and 40-odd diners.
Located on the other side of Potarch Bridge makes it a rather scenic place to drive to from the city centre, one I would happily do again.
Taking around 40 minutes, it’s well worth the trip out.
It really is a must if you’re looking for somewhere homely to visit on a cold Sunday afternoon this autumn.